Tuesday, June 25, 2013

more myth than man

The following is an excerpt of a short story I'm working on. I came to a friend of mine with the piece, and she created a staggering illustration to go along with it. 

It was a Friday evening, just past seven o’clock. It had been an uneventful day, characterized by its ordinance.  He’d read the paper, a past-time that young men his age didn’t really appreciate these days, had walked briskly to the convenience store just down the road (he’d needed sugar), and had spent his afternoon browsing the religion section at a local bookstore. Reading about other religions made him believe that pieces of those religions, the words and feelings of holiness, could stick to him.
All in all, the day had been simple enough. There was no cause for him be anything but content. Nothing bad had happened to him. Even the sun was shining. Flowers were in full bloom. Birds were chirping.   

Regardless, he felt an ache in his heart, something he couldn’t quite explain. It was the sort of twinge that was ingrained in his being. To say he had become accustomed to it was generous; he had learned to set it aside, to compartmentalize his emotions. Nevertheless, when he closed his eyes, the words were there, imprinted, embedded: alone, alone, all alone. His mind seemed to mock and remind him; it was a cruel place, a frightening place, at times. 

Truly, though… was there anyone who could see? He wasn’t a loner by intention; , he had a tendency to build people up in his mind in such a way that they could never live up to the myth he’d created of them. Granted, he was surrounded by friends. There were people in his life who captivated him, though only peripherally. The outlines were tantalizing, though the characters themselves were lacking. This perception, all the while lending to his habit of building the myth and adding unrealistic shading to two-dimensional peers, awarded in further isolation. Nobody was what they should have been, in his mind, and reality could never live up.

Friends took him places, bought him coffee, and occasionally, he would succumb to the aching thud, the unrelenting weight he carried. In those fleeting moments, his eyes would tell. That was one thing that everyone noted about him; his eyes. Even with a smile, his eyes carried a heaviness to them; these eyes were wise and childish and grown and broken. They saw and peered into people and places, seemingly pulling the spirit from things, taking energy and sucking strength from the world in a futile attempt to dull the aches.   

Still, he would succumb and would voice his woes on rare occasions-- occasions of the mundane, of the ordinary, of the utterly simple. He would give his time away, accept invitations (that seemed forever pouring in), take it all in. Still, he felt an inexplicable sadness that he could never quite place; how he wished he could understand it.

The darkness seemed poetic in the sense of drinking your coffee black at midnight in the rain with a candle burning. On paper, it sounded melancholy and deep and haunting, but to live it… to live it was a hell in itself.
Others would describe him as a kind person, a warm person, if not a controlled person. He never gave all of himself, and he only said I love you when he was drunk. Even then, in the slurred drawl of sweet nothings, he held back. 

One time, on a Tuesday night if he was recalling correctly, he’d longed to reach across the table, to comfort his friend, to say hello with the brush of lips on soft lips. He didn’t and instead cleared his throat, offering to get the next round of whiskey. He felt that he didn’t have enough of himself to let any go, to give any away.

And really, who could accept someone as fucked up as he was anyhow?  

At least, he thought bitterly, he would never be alone. The ache would see to that; with each thud, he would be reminded of that. For as long as he lived, for as long as he could write and speak and until his body decomposed, he would have the sadness. Could he even exist without it? Such a self-fulfilling prophecy this was that, fearing he had nothing to give, he held back. By building up the ideal people in his mind, by romanticizing his friends and relationships, and by his overzealous expectations, he isolated himself, ensuring that nobody could live up to his paradigm of perfection. He yearned for a rescue, but the small forms of salvation slipped past him day after day for they weren’t the grand gestures he had imagined. And so, nothing could compete with his mind, the brilliant mind that poisoned his heart. 

Sadness lingered -- it was his ghost -- but at least it lived up to the myth.

Illustration by Ali Hval


  1. Definitely makes me want to read the rest!

    1. Thanks!!! I just added the ending, if you're interested. :)

  2. So first I am going to scream EIGHT EIGHT EIGHT because I'm annoying and obnoxious like that, but now I will be... pensive... and serious.

    I really love how poetic you are with words and you have a gift, my dear lady. I've read this a few times and have always spotted a new different little way of reading it, and I love that. YOU ARE ENCHANTING OKAY.

    This character also reminds me a ton of Gatsby for the whole romanticization of others concept, which I'm totally diggin'. It kind of makes me wonder if we're all really who others think we are when we show them what we think we are--or are they just romanticizing us to something and blinded by what we're really showing? If that makes sense.

  3. This is an amazing piece you've written. I am in awe of your talent and creative storytelling! And that image is such a perfect illustration of the words.